DOTHAN, Ala. (WIAT) — The air around the Houston County Farm Center filled with laughter, grunts, and the screams of bagpipes for the second annual Southeast Alabama Highland Games Saturday. Forty athletes from around the country came to Dothan to test their might in six traditional Scottish events, ranging from the caber toss (attempting to flip a heavy, 20-foot pole) to the sheaf toss (using a pitchfork to hurl a burlap bag resembling a hay bale over the competitors head).
Among the competitors was Alex Armor, who has competed in Highland Games for most of his life. The army veteran is now confined to a wheelchair, but he doesn’t allow that to stop him. “If you decide you’re going to do something and you can do it, you’re going to figure out a way,” he explained. “It may not be pretty, it may not be awesome; but, you can do it.”
Armor was medically retired from the Army and was able to walk for a short time when he got out; eventually, he was forced to use the wheelchair. He explained his ailment as having usage of his legs, but no feeling. An avid hunter, Armor fell into a depression once he realized he could not take a traditional wheelchair into his beloved woods; however, the Independence Fund, a non-profit, provided him with the all-terrain wheelchair that he uses in outdoor settings. That led him to seeking further activities to conquer, and his current love dawned on him when a friend asked him to play bagpipes at a Tennessee Highland Games. Armor looked for rules online, and found that adaptive athletes could compete in the Scottish sports. “There were rules, but nothing explaining how to do it,” he laughed.
So, Armor had to learn on the job. He says as far as he has been told, he holds several Para-Chair Adaptive Highland Games records, though not much in the way of record-keeping is available. He claims he doesn’t compete for accolades and honors, but rather to try and open people’s minds. “If someone saw me in my jeans and t-shirt in my wheelchair at Walmart, [they] would never think I’m a strong man competitor or a Highland Games athlete; they’d write me off as a guy in a wheelchair,” he said. ” I want people to get rid of that. I want them to meet a person in a wheelchair the same way they’d meet a person that’s standing, or a person on a prosthetic, because you don’t know what that person can do.”
To assist other adaptive athletes that want to chase dreams in non-traditional sports, Armor started the Gimp Style Foundation , a 501(c)(3) organization.